Dragon Wing Celtic Knot Pendant




About: Engineer by trade, amateur woodworker and author in the off-hours. Most commonly, I build flag boxes for retiring military members and occasionally gifts and furniture when the opportunities arise. Outside o...

One of my first wood projects ever was a small carving of a Celtic knot that I pulled from Wood Magazine (Aug 95: Tanglewood Fireball Pendant). At the time I only had access to a scroll saw and a Dremel so it seemed to fit my skills perfectly. Although I went in several different directions with my projects since then, it has always served as a reminder of where I began.

It's a short list of tools this time. Scroll saw, Dremel, a few small chisels and a drill.

I had some leftover padauk on hand so I thought I'd share an updated and more intricate version that I put together. I kept adding more teeth to the edge to go for a saw blade look, but once it was shaped in red, it took on a more organic, winged appearance.

*Final photographs courtesy of my wife @ Pixl-Photography

-Final knot pendant

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Step 1: Planning

Start with a blank around 1" thick with room for a 3" circle. Use a compass to mark the border and mark the edges like a hexagon. Drop the size 3/8" and make another circle to guide the outer edges.

Using three of the outside points, make three arcs to connect the opposing sides. Vary the radius to get the thickness to about 3/8", leaving room in the middle for the arms to cross. Drop the compass down fairly small to mark all six outer teeth. I also added a trailing point behind the teeth to make the design a little more my own. Once you're satisfied with the design, drill the holes and cut it on the scroll saw.

-Sketched plan
-Scroll sawed blank

Step 2: Hand Carving

I've heard there are two types of artists: those who can assemble material and those who can sculpt it away. I'm definitely the former. Carving may not be your strength either but take this slow and you'll get through it in one piece.

Start by marking which arms of the knot go over and which go under. Use a small chisel to pare away the lower sections so the knot begins to appear. Flip the knot and continue the operation on the back.

Once the central transitions are complete, use paring cuts on the wings to give it a gentle slope. Since the blank I used was fairly thick, I marked the edges with a pen to guide my carving along the way.

When you've gone as far as you can without breaking anything, switch to the Dremel...

-Early chiseled-out crossovers
-Rough paring
-Guides drawn on sides

Step 3: Power Carving

My progression through the bits was as follows:
Parabolic burr, rough large sanding drum, round burr, small fine sanding drum, small fine parabolic cutter

Starting with a heavy burr, shape as much of the profile as possible. Rounding over the edges and aim for an even thickness all around the wings. Continue to shape the crossovers but don't gouge out too much material.

Move to the rough drum and continue to smooth over the shape. Add gentle scallops to the insides of the teeth and blend them in on each side.

With the round burr, begin to carve beneath the crossovers but leave a small stub on each intact for strength. We'll use the fine cutter later to sever them.

Switch to a fine sanding drum (the smallest size you have) and refine the shape, taking care to remove all the tool marks you see without adding more of your own.

-Carving progression (Rough shaping, refining, sanding, undercutting)

Step 4: Fine Finishing

With the fine carbide carving burr, cut away the final supports and blend the arms around them. You want to avoid spikes, divots and angled edges. After you've removed all you can, switch to sand paper and polish all the surfaces up. Fold small pieces into lines to wrap around the crossovers to get the inside edges.

Go slow and hold the piece carefully. If you crack it, try again and make the arms a little thicker. Amazingly, I got this one on the first attempt; I didn't even need a step on correcting your mistakes!

Once you're satisfied with the shape, balance the carving on a triangle stand and spray it down with your finish of choice. I'm impatient so lacquer it was.

After it's dry, add the necklace with a small, flat, unobtrusive knot or eye hook. I used some leather since it seemed to fit well with the more organic carving.

-Final carving and sanding
-Completed pendent

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    29 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    I don't see why not but I'm far from an expert in CNC operations. You could probably get most of the way there, except for the three crossovers. I'm not sure if you could flip it and run a second pattern on the back but that'd be the other stumbling block. You'll have to try it out and let me know how it goes. :)


    3 years ago

    wow. stunning work.

    ade angelis

    4 years ago

    This thing is mindblowing! Congrats and thanks for sharing!


    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have carved walking sticks and SantaCickle I think are butt ugly, but others say they are wonderful. I was going to throw out a practice stick with 2 heads carved into it, a gent asked to see it then would not return it, as he said it was wonderful. said it was firewood. I let him keep it, he cut it up and put a hole in each piece to make hanging ornaments!

    BUT , when you are the Ar-teea-st, you know what you wanted to do and it will never be perfect, nor exactly what you wanted.

    Very nice, I did note the "knitted bones" like, parts, but still very nice, do 3-4 more you will just keep getting better. The bones will heal!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Don't worry if it breaks while cutting or sanding - just glue it together and continue. That's what we do at woodshop.

    That's a very good bit bit of work there - the only thing I would add is instead of covering it with varnish, let it sit in a bath of linseed oil ( NOT tung or danish or any other oil) for a week or so, the oil will completely infuse the wood and when dry it will strengthen the whole thing and give a natural sheen.

    2 replies

    I like it but I wouldn't have had the time for the contest. Maybe I'll have to give it a shot... Would you recommend boiled or raw linseed oil? Maybe some buffed-on wax at the end?

    Raw is preferred, but it has a longer drying time plus boiled has a tendency to make wood go dark over time. Sure once it's fully dry (which I'll warn you may take weeks) you can wax it after. It sounds like a lot more hassle than simply varnishing, but the oil will fully penetrate the wood and become part of it, whereas varnish will sit on the surface and over time degrade and will require redoing, plus LO means the wood will never fully dry out and become brittle.

    Poppy Ann

    4 years ago on Introduction

    A great instructable this looks extremely hard to make but with this instructable almost anyone could do it, well done.

    Regards Poppy Ann.

    That's some Jaw dropping work right there... I wish I had some of that amazing skill! :P

    I so want to get into wood working seeing amazing projects like yours. Well Done.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Very good work and design. I like it, and I'm a scroll-sawyer. The only missing here is a template for those of us who can't draw, even with a compass. LOL

    i wish i had your carving skills, if i did, i would make one out of wax and cast it from aluminum, or brass i like brass.